On Feb. 7, 2019, the Canadian Defence Lawyers' 15th annual insurance coverage symposium brought together a range of industry professionals who discussed trends and developments in the field. The event attracted insurance executives, claims professionals, defence counsel and insurance coverage lawyers.
One of the most insightful parts of the day was a discussion among three insurance industry professionals — each of whom works regularly with coverage counsel — about what they look for in coverage counsel and what will keep them coming back to do business with them in the future.
Insurance companies are running a business. They want coverage counsel who recognize the broader business context and approach the relationship in a way that allows insurance companies to continue building their business.
3 Lessons Learned
1. Communication and responsiveness are king
Bad news is part of the job description in insurance work. Insurance companies want to get bad news fast to manage the fallout, so responsiveness is extremely important to them. They need to be able to trust that their coverage counsel is going to communicate information to them clearly and quickly.
In order to run their business, they need to be able to make informed decisions. The worst case scenario for insurance companies is getting surprise information too late in the game.
The panelists were clear—in their minds, communication and responsiveness are the two most important traits for coverage counsel to possess.
2. What is your value add?
Insurance companies are looking for coverage counsel that can add value to their business. This can come in many forms, but some of the ways that the panelists think coverage counsel can add value include:
- Coverage teams with benches that have depth and breadth of experience.
Insurance companies prefer the team-based approach to coverage work. It is more cost effective for them to have teams with junior counsel who do the bulk of the work and senior counsel who primarily review the work. They want a bench that has a variety of experience levels to keep costs down.
They also value teams who can respond to claims for all of a company's product lines. For example, one global company represented on the panel has product lines in oil & gas, nuclear, financial, entertainment, and more. They look for full service coverage counsel with bench strength in multiple product lines.
- Providing advice with the insurance companies' end game in mind. While it is important to communicate clearly and quickly, it is even better if the information you communicate demonstrates you have considered the insurance companies broader business model.
For example, insurance companies care deeply about their reputation and providing a good customer experience. Advice that considers the downstream reputational impacts of a decision will set you apart.
- Providing guidance for non-Canadian insurance companies. Many insurance companies have global operations and may not do much Canadian work. You can add value for these companies by doing things like explaining the implications of your analysis in the Canadian context or including a common law and civil law perspective (when appropriate).
3. Work allocation is based on relationships, not formal metrics
Insurance companies are interested in retaining coverage counsel who they have strong relationships with. They want teams who know their people well and who have a deep understanding of their business model. Particularly for international insurance companies, it is important for coverage counsel to develop relationships with counsel in other jurisdictions (especially US counsel).
While claims analysis metrics have come a long way, all of the panelists agreed that person-to-person relationships and trust that the coverage team will be responsive and communicate clearly will always take the day. Formal metrics are not the focus when deciding who to give work to.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.